Last night was a restless sleep.
I kept thinking about all the nights the past months since the first of last year.
Something was happening to me that I can only begin to comprehend now. Something few would ever really believe.
Seriously, let alone me.
I’ve been one to worry. About too many things. Though, I guess all of us do. Especially if we have children.
Since two of mine are grown adults, I’ve tried desperately hard not to worry too much about them. After all, they are children with children now with lives of their own. I’ve worked hard internally to let go.
Well….just enough for them to feel some freedom to live as they were called to live.
Yet, I’ll bet every Momma out there understands this: Our children never, ever cease to be just that. Our children. Our babies. Our lives. Perpetual little children in grown up, adult bodies.
I have had some restless nights in my life, for sure, but it seemed that most nights those past months, I would wake up in a panic. My chest would tighten under an unseen grip and the sweat would roll and my breathing would quicken as if the room was filled with smoke.
And I’d sit straight up.
Then literally, in my mind as if I counted them off on my fingers…I would go down the list of children. All of them from the oldest to youngest.
A roll call.
I would sit up and ask myself in a half sleep-drunk haze if all were alright…Mike? check..kids? check….Daughter? check….kids? check…..and so on. It would take a few minutes but after I felt confident and clear that all was well and the thought crossed my mind I was being real overprotective, I’d lay my head down and allow myself to stop thinking…to fall back asleep best I could.
I remember feeling so anxious about it all that I shared my anxiety with my husband…who, like all husbands, would shake his head and tell me how I worry too much.
Months would go by with nights like this. Not every night, but enough.
One of those nights I received the call no one wants to get. I knew Mike was in the hospital…but not to what extent (I was told to wait…Mike’s dad was on his way there…he would tell me.
He’d be my eyes and would tell me when to come).
I needed to fly out there and all I know is that I was flung into overdrive and my body kicked into fight-or-flight.
All those weeks in that Texas hospital next to him, I rarely had time to think about anything except my son. I lived, breathed, ate, slept Michael.
And then he was gone.
The minute he died, the Army then gave him a new title. Put him in a new category.
When a Soldier falls, no matter how or why, that particular Soldier’s unit organizes a Memorial. Each and every Soldier in Michael’s unit had a role to play, an assignment to fill calling into remembrance his life and work in the Army.
I was told to brace myself. I was told it would be incredibly emotional and deeply meaningful.
Some told me that this Memorial meant more to each Soldier than the actual funeral. It would be meticulously planned. Detailed.
So many things happened that scheduled day…more than I could write in a few paragraphs (and I will write it out someday…I will weave it all in and out of these posts).
Yet I will never forget the service itself.
It was possibly the thing I will remember until the day I die.
I walked into the chapel on the Base at Fort Hood to see my son’s boots.
A rifle draped with his dog tags, his helmet balanced on top. His picture. All under the cross section of two American flags.
Laying at the foot, his highest bronze medal.
A Fallen Soldier Battlefield Cross.
It’s one of those things you would see in a magazine…or on TV. I had never seen anything like this in real life.
I remember having to hold myself up against the pew in front of me.
Words were spoken
(blur, blur, blur)
and at the very end, his commander stepped up in front of his boots, his picture, his dog tags, his highest medal…
and began to call names of the unit’s soldiers…one at a time.
Every name called would reply with a sharp, loud cadence…their name, Ma’am!
their presence, Ma’am!
My heart started racing and I could barely catch my breath.
What was she doing?
What was she doing?
Then I heard it…almost like I was jolted awake from a fitful sleep….
“CW3 Michael S. Adkins!”
“CW3 Michael. S. ADKINS!!??”
“I said!!…CW3! MICHAEL. S. ADKINS!!!!”
Oh! Dear God…no answer.
She turned on her heels in that way you would imagine a soldier trained so many years would do and walked stiffly to one side.
Her hand slowly and methodically went up to her brow in an honorary salute.
Then from outside I heard gunshots.
One. Two. Three.
Piercing my heart.
Shattering my dream.
Waking me up into a lifetime of nightmare.
It was horrible and surreal and frightfully true.
I could not lay my head back down and drift off to sleep.
I wouldn’t wake up the next morning sighing with relief and chastising myself for worrying too much.
I know the connection is strong, loud, real.
There’s no doubt in my mind now.
A Momma’s heart knows.
Knows up until the last breath.
Until the bitter end.